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Landslide in Uganda claims six lives2 minutes read

The Red Cross said that around 50 people were believed missing after the landslides on Tuesday night in the foothills of Mount Elgon

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Landslide in Uganda claims six lives

Six people have died and dozens are missing after heavy rains triggered a series of landslides in eastern Uganda’s mountainous Bududa district, government officials and the Red Cross said on Wednesday. 

The Red Cross said that around 50 people were believed missing after the landslides on Tuesday night in the foothills of Mount Elgon — an extinct volcano with five major peaks.

Uganda’s Minister for Relief and Disaster Preparedness Hillary Onek told journalists in Kampala that “the landslide killed six people”.

“There were several other small landslides. Seventeen people were injured,” including eight children.

“Fifty households have been displaced so far. However, assessment is still ongoing and the number is expected to rise,” Onek added.

Uganda Red Cross spokeswoman Irene Nakasiita earlier counted a 73-year-old woman and several children among the dead.

“There were multiple landslides,” in Bududa district, “but for now Red Cross has concentrated in the worst hit areas”, she said in a statement.

“The local Red Cross branch volunteers together with the local police joined efforts and retrieved the bodies.

“The affected areas have steep slopes. It is threatening to rain again (and) accessibility is still a challenge,” she added.

Local lawmaker Godfrey Watenga told AFP the landslides had taken place late on Tuesday evening.

“It is a tragic occurrence. Many people are said to be dead and many missing but we are trying to get the details as the terrain here is difficult to manoeuvre and get to the affected villages.”

Bududa district, which lies on the border between Uganda and Kenya, is a high risk area for landslides. 

In 2018 at least 41 people were killed after a river in the region burst its banks, and in 2010 at least 100 people were killed in a landslide.

A statement from the office of Prime Minister Ruhakana Rugunda said that “there are reports of displacement and destruction of property as well as missing persons”.

Ater the 2010 landslide, the government said that the region, where people live on extremely steep slopes, was too dangerous to be lived in and that a programme was under way to re-locate residents.

However similar disasters claimed lives in 2011, 2012 and 2016.

“In total, over 100,000 people living precariously on the slopes of Mount Elgon are estimated to be at great danger and requiring relocation” to avoid the danger of landslides, said the statement from Rugunda’s office.

A 2016 study into the high occurrence of mudslides and flooding in the region pointed to deforestation and over cultivation of the land as the local population booms, reducing the stability of the soil.

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Ethiopia to divest 40% of Ethio Telecom

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The Ethiopian government is finalizing plans to sell a 40 percent stake in Ethio Telecom- the country’s sole telecommunication provider . The plan was announced by Ethiopia’s State Minister of Finance, Eyob Tekalign Tolina.

Ethiopia’s telecommunication industry is considered one of the last closed markets. It has been one of the government’s plans to liberalize the country’s economy launched by Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed. Ethio Telecom has a large market serving a population of around 110 million.

The government will retain ownership of the remaining 60 percent.

Foreign firms in the telecom sector will be invited to bid and a percentage of the minority stake will be sold to Ethiopian citizens. South Africa’s MTN and Kenya’s Safaricom have shown interest in expanding into Ethiopia in the past.

Ethiopia’s communications regulator says the country would proceed with the privatisation of the telecommunications sector despite the novel coronavirus outbreak.

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Covid-19: Kenyan researchers test efficacy of local herbal medicine

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Dr. Festus Tolo, co-researcher in traditional medicine at his office at Kemri headquarters shows some of the pilot products. PHOTO|ANGELA OKETCH| NATION

Kenya’s leading research institute has begun exploring the efficacy of one of its herbal and traditional medicines likely to treat Covid-19.

Kenya Medical Research Institute (KEMRI) has identified Zedupex, an in-house herbal medicine used in the treatment of genital herpes, a common viral disease that causes sores on the mouth and genitals.

The drug licensed by the Pharmacy and Poisons Board in 2015 was developed by Kenyan scientists from medicinal trees.

The search for both a cure and a vaccine for the coronavirus has intensified around the globe, including in Kenya, as medical researchers race to find the elusive remedy.

Dr. Festus Tolo of Kenya’s Medical Research Institute is the lead scientist tasked with finding out whether a herb-based drug will be effective against COVID-19. Zedupex, developed in 2015 by Kenyan researchers, has been used in the treatment of herpes.

Tolo says his team does not know yet whether the drug will work against the virus.

“We are still in very early stages. We cannot be able to say, knowing that the herpes simplex virus is a DNA virus and the coronavirus is an RNA virus,” he said.

“This really means that we need to, first of all confirm or check whether there’s activity before we can be able to really say this is a product we can explore further for COVID management.”

The WHO’s Kenya representative Rudi Eggers says that standardizing the various herbal cures could be quite a challenge.
“In other medicines, we find that there are specific levels of the active ingredient and in herbal cures you frequently find varied components and the levels of those components in there,” Eggers said.

“So, in fact you’d have to standardize these cures to make sure that you know what is in them and what component is actually acting. So that’s quite a step to be taken before actually evaluating these cures.”

Zedupex is sold in small-scale through the institute’s production department. The researchers will be working in the laboratory to test the activity and safety of the compound on Covid-19 treatment.

The trials are being carried out at Kemri’s laboratory. The drug has not been administered to any coronavirus patient.

But as Kenya tries to explore the treatment of the virus with traditional medicines, the African Union says it will now start testing the controversial herbal remedy for Covid-19 from Madagascar.

At least five African countries continue to receive supplies of the remedy despite the World Health Organisation (WHO) warning about its use.
Despite these hurdles, researchers at KEMRI are pressing ahead with their study of herbal treatments for COVID-19.

Kenya itself has seen more than 1,000 confirmed cases of the coronavirus disease so far, and about 50 deaths.

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World Bank grants Africa, Asia $500 million to battle locust invasion.

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The World Bank has approved $500 million in grants and low-interest loans to help countries in Africa and the Middle East combat swarms of desert locusts that had been eating their way across vast swaths of crops and rangelands.

Djibouti, Ethiopia, Kenya and Uganda; the Four of the hardest-hit countries will receive $160 million immediately, according to Holger Kray, a senior World Bank official.

“The Horn of Africa finds itself at the epicenter of the worst locust outbreak we have seen in a generation, most probably in more than a generation,”

Kray says, noting that the new coronavirus pandemic is exacerbating the crisis.

The World Bank emphasized that this pestilence had infested 23 countries across East Africa, the Middle East and South Asia, the biggest outbreak in 70 years posing a grave danger to food supplies in East Africa where nearly 23 million people are facing food shortages. Now coupled with the coronavirus pandemic, the situation becomes more worrisome.

The World Bank estimates that the Horn of Africa region could suffer up to $8.5 billion in damage to crop and livestock production by year-end without broad measures to reduce locust populations and prevent their spread further. Even with these measures, losses could be as high as $2.5 billion, the lender adds.

In Kenya, the locusts are eating in one day, the amount of food consumed by all Kenyans in two days, Kray explains.

The new World Bank program will help farmers, herders and rural households by providing fertilizer and seeds for new crops and cash transfers to pay for food for people and livestock. It will also fund investments to strengthen surveillance and early warning systems to make the region more resilient over the medium- to longer-term, Kray explained

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